Monday, June 4, 2012

The Detour

Sunday, Washington, Brunswick, MD, to Williamsport, MD 44 miles of riding in 4:45 hrs

Now at first glance you’ll see that I did a piddly 44 of riding in almost 5 hrs. But I’ll tell you what – it was all about the detour!!
         We started the day for the last morning at Sue and Hurshe’s, and man we’re going to miss those two big time. We’ve had such a good time with them over the last 3 days. They’re the consummate hosts to be sure, as well as two amazing folks. I’ve had to kind of temper the trip a bit until Judy’s back loosens up. We just cannot have her in the car for like 8-10 hrs at a crack, nor can we do camp areas where we have to ferry our gear to a site. So that was one of my big reasons for not really trying to hammer out a blistering day in the saddle – that and the fact that I was not sure how the trail would be further west after the drenching rain on Friday. I kind of figured on the same conditions that I’d ridden through on Sat, so speed was not going to be a factor today.
         After another great “Hursh” breakfast, I got packed and Hursh drove me in the van back to the spot in Brunswick where I’d finished yesterday. Judy stayed at home with Sue so she could relax for the day and not do to much. We had settled on me doing Williamsport for the day – about a 45 mile ride, and I’d figured that I could knock it off in about 3 hrs – even with %#%@ trail conditions. Got dropped off and began riding, and the trail was really in great shape, few if any large puddles, and NO long stretches of mud pits. Now there was still a moderate headwind, but hell, I was riding gravel so the slower you’re going the less the headwind is a factor. An engineer could explain this phenomenon – the faster you go the more the air and wind becomes an obstacle to forward progress. Enough said there.
         Made Harper’s Ferry in good time. And this time, as opposed to last year, I went up the stairs, crossed over the Potomac on a RR bridge that shared with the pedestrian walkway, and went into the Ferry to check the place out. This is really just a NPS (National Park Service) historic town – aka – a  bit touristy. So I just took a few pics and then headed back for the trail. Kept it moving at a decent clip for the next 25 miles, knowing that a detour loomed at the 85-mile mark. Last year I relented and did the detour, which is 6 miles on asphalt backroads. This year being the real crack at AD, I was dead set on not doing the mandatory detour, and forging on the trail. Besides, it was Sunday, and I figured that if there was work still being done on the trail, that no one would be there working on Sunday. Hell, I had it all figured out!!
         So I finally got to the detour area, where there was a sign which stated that you must get off and get on the roads. Nope, I just kept riding…and then another sign: Trail ends in 1.5 miles. Nope, just kept riding. And I lifted my bike up and over a barrier and kept riding. Now the signs said: You must not proceed any further. Nope, I just kept riding – damned if I was going to get on roads this early in the game. And there was a stretch where I was thinking: “heck, this is just great trail. Maybe they haven’t bothered to open it yet. I think I’m good to go here.” And I just kept riding. That was until I hit this fenced barrier and saw up ahead of my this miles long section of trail that was up against cliff face and elevated above the Potomac River. Another sing: No Trespassing NPS. Ok, we were getting serious here. And as I got closer to the elevated trailway I could see all this equipment out there in the river, like these giant cranes and steam shovels. I finally rode right up to the elevated trail and it was just amazing.
         The trail must have washed out years ago, and they were replacing it with this elevated thing that looked to be some 1.5 miles long along a cliff face. But it looked like I could walk on it and maybe even ride on it. So I picked my bike up and set it on the elevated trail and rode a bit. Now some of the surface was fill dirt, some was concrete – where I walked – and some was just old trail with rocks and rubble everywhere. And it was in sections where you had to climb off of the trailway, descend down about 4-6 feet and then lift the bike back up to the next section of trailway. It was slow, but by God I was NOT doing that freaking detour! And besides, there was this chick walking her dogs out there on the decking so the thing had to be thru!!
         So it was looking good until I came to sections where it was just rock wall along the river and then just a tangle of trees and shrubbery on the middle of the trail. No trailway. So I walked along these sections of rock wall that were about 6-8 ft above the river, and about 3 feet wide. I pushed the bike ahead of me while taking care not to biff it in cycling shoes – mt bike shoes but still not the greatest for waling on rock walls! And as I was doing this I was thinking: “I’m slowing digging myself deeper and deeper into the black hole here.” There’s a saying in rock climbing: “Never lead climb something that you don’t think you can downclimb.” And that’s what I was thinking with this gig – “don’t get so far in that it’s a total mess.”
         So I got back to decking again and thought that I’d licked this thing – until I came to a section where there was nothing. Nope, just a stretch of like 50-75 feet of no decking, no man-made rock wall, no nothing, just pylons in the river next to a cliff face of about 45 degrees. So there were 3 pylons of concrete that were shaped like horseshoes, and separated by about 20 ft each. Now I was beginning to get further into the black hole. I’d already invested about 45 min in my foray, and now that. I put my bike against the rock wall and investigated the first pylon. I had to use this flat boat to use as a pier to get to the pylon. But from the first pylon to the second was a good twenty feet. The only way to bridge them was to traverse the 45-degree rock wall each time and then make the opposite decking. Now with climbing shoes on I’d feel fine, but with cycling shoes and a bike on my shoulder – way too far into the black hole.
         Got to know when to cut your losses. And that was my point. So I went back across these I-beams to the spot where I saw the chick walking her dogs. I mean she had to come from somewhere cuz she sure as hell didn’t cross by those pylons. And sure enough there was just jeep track that went up the mt. So I shifted into the little cookie and took it – first straight, then left, then up a steep walk the bike, and then to the top of the valley. I kept taking trails that led back to the river so I could parallel it. And it worked because I finally got on this massive electric line swath with a single track on it. So I rode that for about a mile and then walked my bike down a really steep section and back to the decking. Did it!!
         Or so I thought. I couldn’t find the trail amidst this massive work area. So I mulled around for about 15 min. And then I found it, fenced off with a fence about 10 ft high topped with barbed wire. They had smartly placed the fence next to the river and a deep stream bed such that they flared the fence out some 6-8 feet so it was above the river and above the stream….meaning you had to traverse the fence 6-8 feet on one side and then another 6-8 feet on the other side to get back on the trail, which really wasn’t even trail. It was so unused that it was chest high overgrowth. I was goosed big time. Had to get on the backroads and find a parallel road to get me back to where the trail starts back up again. So here is where I used my first mulligan – riding on berm along asphalt.
         Now that may sound like a copout, but let me tell you it was a total bitch. There was no gravel berm, but instead just weeds. It went asphalt on both sides and field and overgrowth on the side. So this was painfully slow, especially climbing up small hills. I had to shift back to the little cookie and just spin at 4-7 mph. Well, it turns out that I was actually on part of the detour, that after I stopped and asked a lady who had just gotten out of her car in her driveway. So I continued on riding in the weeds. There were a few steep sections where the road descended and there was just NO berm, just steep sided field on the side of the road. These I dismounted and walked.
         Now I do remember this guy in his yard watching me walk down a hill, only to get on the bike where a hill started and then I rode in the weeds alongside the road. Dude must have thought I’d just escaped from the loony bin! Will this mess took me a good 40 min to go just a few miles, but I got back to gravel trail and it felt like heaven. Called Judy and gave her my eta and peddled on towards Williamsport. Made Williamsport in 4:45 hrs, so you do the math on my mph! SLOW is all I can say. Welcome to AD!!
         We got a campsite at Yogi Bear Park, a tourist trap of a joint that’s more expensive than getting a bloody motel room. So Sue and Hush drove up to sit down with us at the campfire for a few hrs and cook dogs and baked beans. We all had a great time – our final gig together for this trip. Well, at least I had an interesting story to tell around the campfire about my stubbornness with the detour – that I ended up taking anyway!!
         Love and much thanks to you guys, Sue and Hursh, for the awesome three days we spent with you. So tomorrow I’m hoping to make Cumberland, about 80 miles on the trail. We’ll see what we can do. So until tomorrow, I’m hitting the hay and out……..Pete

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